Wise or Otherwise?

Sunday July 5th, 2015

Rev. Mouris Yousef, Pastor

 

Wise or Otherwise?

Proverbs 14:12; James 1:5-8

A writer arrived at an ancient village to write a book about the wise man in that village. “People say you are a genius. Are you?” he asked. “You might say so,” said the wise man with a smile. “And what makes one a genius?” asked the intrepid reporter. “The ability to see,” said the wise man. The writer was betwixt and between. Scratching his hair with one hand and rubbing his tummy with the other, he muttered, “To see what?” The wise man quietly replied, “To see the butterfly in a caterpillar, the eagle in an egg, the saint in a selfish person, life in death, unity in separation, the divine in the human and the human in the divine.” What a great statement! Being wise is having the ability to see. This morning we wrap up our series: Making Choices that Matter! Over the last few weeks, we have had the chance to look at some key Scripture passages and some great Biblical characters who made choices that honored the Lord in their generations. They lived in a hostile spiritual culture as much as ours today, and yet, they conquered any and every aspect of compromise. As we conclude this series this morning, please allow me to share with you a few important advice from the book of James chapter 1:5-8. We won’t be able to make God-honoring choices unless we have God’s wisdom in our lives. We won’t be make choices that matter in God’s sight unless we have the ability to see things differently. Let me ask you today: are you wise or otherwise? A couple quick observations:

First: Wisdom Wanted

Writing to the persecuted and discriminated against first century Christian community mainly from a Jewish background, James says in chapter 1:5, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” In Greek grammar, this phrase “If any of you lacks wisdom” is a first class condition in Greek, which means the “If” can be translated “since”! In other words, what it is saying is, “SINCE you DO lack wisdom.”   This is not just some abstract theoretical problem.  This describes where so many of us actually are, right? We do lack wisdom! We don’t have the answers to our questions. The word “lack” here in James 1:5 is a banking word, meaning a “deficit” or “shortfall.” We talk about the national “budget deficit”, but the Bible says that each of us has a personal “wisdom deficit”! We do not have, on our own, the wisdom that we need.

But what is “wisdom”? The Greek word for wisdom is “sophia.” To James wisdom was more than knowledge and more than intelligence. The fact is, you can have both intelligence and knowledge, and yet lack wisdom. Wisdom is the practical use and exercise of knowledge. It is knowledge that is applied in practical and godly ways. Biblical wisdom is the ability to see things from God’s perspective. This is the kind of wisdom what we need to live a God-honoring and God-fearing life.

Too many people have “knowledge” – but they don’t apply it to their lives.  In fact, this is what James criticizes later in this chapter: “be DOERS of the word, and not hearers only, who delude themselves.” I feel that James is speaking to the churches in the 21st century! There is way too much “knowledge” in the church today, and way too little “wisdom”! Someone once said we have a “toxic buildup” of knowledge in the American church today that we have never applied. We go to Bible study after Bible study after Bible study, and “learn” all these truths that we never apply to our lives.  We don’t need more “knowledge” in the church; we NEED wisdom.  We need to be able to see things from God’s perspective, and apply His truths to our real-life situations.

Second: Wisdom Asked

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” “You should ask God”, James says. The One we need to ask for wisdom is God. Proverbs 3:5 says, “Do not lean on your own understanding” – instead, ask God!

Job 28 is a very insightful Scripture passage as we think about the source of true wisdom. In Job 28:12-24, Job asks, “But where can wisdom be found? Where does understanding dwell? No mortal comprehends its worth; it cannot be found in the land of the living. The deep says, “It is not in me”; the sea says, “It is not with me.” It cannot be bought with the finest gold, nor can its price be weighed out in silver … Where then does wisdom come from? Where does understanding dwell? It is hidden from the eyes of every living thing, concealed even from the birds in the sky. Destruction and Death say, “Only a rumor of it has reached our ears.” God understands the way to it and he alone knows where it dwells, for He views the ends of the earth and sees everything under the heavens.” Job says wisdom is not to be found with anyone or anything here on earth; real wisdom comes from GOD.

The Greek here where James says, “you should ask God” is “para tou theou” – literally, “from the side of God.”  This is a great picture!  It pictures wisdom as being right there at God’s side, which just what Proverbs 8:30 says that when God made the heavens and the earth in the beginning, that wisdom “was constantly at His side.” God’s wisdom is right at His side, at His very heart – we can ask it from Him. Wisdom comes from God: “Ask of God”!

“You should ask God”, James says. James doesn’t mean to just ask God once and walk away!  In Greek this is a present active imperative; it means: “Keep on asking!”  This means that your prayer to God for wisdom is be constant and continual thing. Proverbs 2:2-4 describe how diligently and persistently we are to seek the Lord’s wisdom: “Make your ear attentive to wisdom, incline your heart to understanding; for if you cry for discernment, lift your voice for understanding, if you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures, THEN you will discern the fear of the Lord and discover the knowledge of God.  For the Lord gives wisdom …” That passage makes it clear that God “gives” His wisdom to those who “SEEK” it like for hidden treasures – not to those who “sit around waiting for it”! So we are to SEEK God’s wisdom continually in prayer, in studying the Scriptures, and in fellowshipping with the body of Christ, the church.

Friends, when you need wisdom, and ask for it from God, James says God will give it to us: “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” James says that God gives to all generously and without reproach, so ask. James had most likely heard Jesus speak those famous words in Matthew 7:7-11: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and it will opened unto you … If you, then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father give what is good to those who ask?”   More than anything else we need the wisdom that comes from above as we train ourselves to make good choices. Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.” Wisdom helps us understand how our troubles fit in with God’s plan. It assures us that God has not forsaken us. God’s gift of wisdom allows us to understand how God is involved in life’s daily events. So, let’s wise up church of Christ! Are you wise or otherwise? To God all praise, honor, and glory, and to this all God’s people said, “Amen.”

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